LOVE conquers all
Set in a time of historical change, Ladies In Black shines a light on rising feminism in Australia and intercultural love, writes Neala Johnson
SYBYLLA and Harry Beecham. Lady Sarah and The Drover. Sue and Mick Dundee.
The book of great Australian movie romances gets a new entry this week as Fay and Rudi step out in Bruce Beresford’s Ladies In Black.
Fay is a sales assistant at a posh Sydney department store who “is dreaming of romance and a broader cultural experience than the one she’s been exposed to,” says the actor behind the register, Rachael Taylor.
And Rudi is a Hungarian dandy, “a sophisticated, wellread man of arts and culture” who has fled his Nazi-occupied homeland and discovered a true “land of opportunity” Down Under. “He’s dated his way around Australia,” grins the man beneath Rudi’s cravat, Ryan Corr.
And it didn’t take much to get those sweet sparks flying between Taylor, 34-year-old star of Red Dog and Marvel’s hit Netflix series Jessica Jones, and
Holding the Man’s Corr, 29. “Rachael Taylor is really not hard to fall in love with,” says Corr. “We had a good jam together and a good chemistry to play out and have fun. Rudi, he’s fascinated with Fay from the moment he meets her and that’s all based on Rach. She’s such a charming woman, she really is.”
Taylor reckons Corr has a charming switch — “He annoyingly just knows how to turn it on,” she laughs — and says their connection was immediate.
“He’s so lovely to work with and so talented — it was a relationship that came very easily. You never know with these things, you get thrown in with another actor and you’re like, ‘I hope this sticks!’ But he made it so, so easy.”
Based on the book by Madeleine St John (which was also turned into a hit stage musical), Ladies In Black follows a bookish teenager, Lisa (Angourie Rice) who takes a job in a department store while waiting to hear if she’s been accepted into the University of Sydney. There she’s taken under the wing of her fellow ladies in black, played by Taylor and Alison McGirr, and Magda (Julia Ormond), a refugee with exotic style who manages the “model gowns” department.
“It’s about this great moment of change in Australian culture, with European migrants coming into Sydney and the rise of feminism and the sexual revolution of the 1960s right around the corner,” says Taylor.
“The film is about Lisa’s desire for more, but it’s also about how this department store opens her eyes to a whole new world and to the dreams and desires of the other women in the film. All of the female characters in the film are all coming into their power and taking command of their futures, whether in Lisa’s case that’s the dream of professional and academic glory, or in the case of Ali McGirr’s character, a desire for love and sex and to have children of her own.
“It’s a movie that is delightful and comedic and romantic on the surface, but full of these rich emotions underneath.”
Corr’s transformation into Rudi required a total makeover — “I tell you what, it scares me a little bit, I look like my grandfather!” he laughs — as well as wrangling his accent into something that could reasonably pass for Hungarian.
“I sounded like a nutty German when I first came into test for the role,” he admits. “If there’s one thing I had to get right in this, besides his obvious love for Fay, it was that accent.”
With a rare chance to use her native tones, Taylor had it easy on the accent front.
But she didn’t find the ’50s
“ALL OF THE FEMALE CHARACTERS IN THE FILM ARE ALL COMING INTO THEIR POWER AND TAKING COMMAND OF THEIR FUTURES”
fashion particularly comfy.
“Alison and I were joking that we loved getting dolled up like that, but we were also very grateful to be in 2018 where we can throw on a pair of sweat pants and a T-shirt and that is also acceptable,” she laughs.
Having first leapt into the national consciousness with TV drama Headland in her early 20s, Taylor is these days making a habit of picking projects with women at the forefront.
“I really care about how women are represented on screen, it’s important,” she says.
“I care about strong women being portrayed and putting forward rich, complicated and loving representations of female friendship — that’s something I found both in Jessica Jones and Ladies In Black.”
She believes Ladies In Black is timely in its depiction of “women asserting themselves” as well as being “a celebration of Australia’s multiculturalism”.
“That’s so important to remember,” she says. “I think we forget where our good coffee came from.”
Corr, who grew up in suburban Doncaster surrounded by Greek and Italian migrants who arrived in the same era depicted in the film, agrees it’s this “mixed bag of cultures” that has made Australian culture so rich.
“It’s valuable for us to reflect on how much Australia has gained from immigration and diversity. We’re a country where acceptance is paramount.”
Taylor calls Ladies In Black a “soul tonic”. While she couldn’t make it home for last week’s premiere in Sydney, Corr is happy to report that everyone left the cinema smiling.
“It’s a feminist tale, it’s a tale about inclusivity and making the most of, and it’s a love story. You walk out feeling good.”
WATCH LADIES IN BLACK opens tomorrow
RACHAEL TAYLOR AND RYAN CORR STAR IN LADIES IN BLACK, AND BELOW, TAYLOR ON SET WITH DIRECTOR BRUCE BERESFORD